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Blockbuster: How the Jaws and Jedi Generation Turned Hollywood into a Boom-town Paperback – July 4, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Shone's first book is an entertaining chronological survey of top-grossing films during the past 30 summers, beginning with Universal's Jaws (1975). The Steven Spielberg film became a phenomenon, breaking the $100-million mark. When movie attendance was at an all-time low in the early 1970s, Shone explains, studios had been keeping costs down, but they changed that tactic and began spending more and developing new marketing and merchandising methods. It worked. By that decade's end, box office returns had tripled, due to 22 films, each earning more than $50 million. Ticket sales soared as Paramount went from The Godfather to Grease, Fox launched Star Wars and Columbia scored with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. To trace the evolution of summer blockbuster films through three decades, Shone, former London Sunday Times film critic, interviewed more than 40 talents, including Spielberg, John Lasseter, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver and Richard Zanuck. He devotes full chapters to Titanic ("the world's first billion-dollar blockbuster") and other "event movies." Although reams have been published about such films as Alien and Blade Runner, Shone writes with verve, producing a probing, intelligent analysis. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In the mid-1970s, while Hollywood was parading stars in one disaster film after another, Steven Spielberg broke things wide open with the release of Jaws. By today's standards, the movie used cheesy special effects, mainly a rubber shark, and the beast doesn't even appear until 80 minutes into the film. But it became the first of the big summer blockbusters, a true phenomenon that people went to see over and over. Shone, an international film critic, takes us on a tour of 30 years of blockbuster movies, showing how the industry went from pure luck to deliberately manufacturing blockbuster hits, so-called high-concept movies backed by big-name directors, megastars, and special effects, costing upward of $100 million. He goes behind the scenes on such films as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Alien, Titanic, and Jurassic Park, through the pitches, the rewrites, and the extensive marketing machine. Although the reader may bemoan how one of America's greatest art forms has been reduced to entertainment aimed at 13-year-olds, Shone's biting analyses are on target. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; New edition edition (July 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743239911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743239912
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 7.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,050,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A film critic for The Economist's Intelligent Life, I have written three books, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer (Simon & Schuster, 2004) In The Rooms (Hutchinson / St Martins Press 2011) and Scorsese: A Retrospective (Abrams, 2014). from 1994-1999 I was film critic of the Sunday Times. My writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vogue and New York. I also teach film history at NYU.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read this book based on Nick Hornby's review in the Believer. It's a strange beast. Shone makes very clear that he wants to deflate the argument made by Biskind in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls that the Blockbuster killed the New American Cinema. I really did enjoy Biskind's book, though it certainly is gossip-laden and pretty fast and loose with the facts-- so I was quite interested to read Blockbuster for an alternate take on the "Blockbuster killed the Art film" debate. Unfortunately, it is pretty weak. While Shone derides Biskind's take on the after-effects of Jaws, etc. - he really doesn't back up his own stance beyond some very basic observations that do little to convince. Basically, there is not much meat to the book - some good anecdotes are sprinkled throughout, but nothing that doesn't seem like it could have come from a back issue of Premiere magazine. All said though, I did tear through it. The prose is engaging, and it's an easy read.
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Format: Hardcover
I watch a fair amount of movies, but I would hardly call myself a "film buff". I was a little skeptical of the book, but I bought it anyway on Nick Hornby's recommendation in Polysyllabic Spree. It turns out that this is a pretty fascinating subject. I wouldn't have thought I'd be very interested in the making of Batman or Titanic, but I couldn't put the book down.

Shone has a very enganging writing style, and the book is as much a history of people as much as of movies. He starts with the first big blockbusters of 25 years ago -- Jaws, Star Wars, ET, Alien -- and recreates the excitement we felt when we first saw them. The latter half of the book examines Hollywood's hubristic blockbusters -- Gozilla, Last Action Hero -- and how we all went to see them anyway. I always thought of the big summer action films as something Hollywood slapped together to make a buck, but sometimes they represent somebody's dreams (Back to the Future). Then again, sometimes they really are something slapped together to make a buck, maybe crushing some dreams in the process (Batman, Godzilla).

If you're a movie snob, you may not like this book. Shone is going to take Spielberg over Scorcese, and you know if you're not going to like that. But if you can take that, I think you'll really like this book, and I say that as someone who hasn't even seen Jaws.
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Format: Hardcover
Some reviewers here accuse Shone of being simplistic in his rebuff of Peter Biskind's Easy Riders etc but in fact it's simplistic to view the book in this way. I think Shone just wishes to continue the story beyond the point at which Biskind chose to end his; the Biskind-bashing very evident in the early chapters comes off the back of this but one of Shone's main points is that Jaws and Star Wars should/can be seen as artistically rich and groundbreaking in their own right, just in a different vein to the films of Biskind's heroes.

The view glibly asserted by an earlier reviewer here, that Spileberg and his ilk are "dull" and therefore unsatisfying as subject matter, is exactly the somewhat sniffy received opinion that Shone attacks, and it's a pleasure to read, as is the long-overdue puncturing of some sacred icons. He isn't simply defending anything that gets called a blockbuster - he calls into question our use of that term when it's often used to describe over-hyped films that open big and then vanish. What is definitely simplistic is the notion that this is a phenomenon that can be blamed purely on Jaws and Star Wars.

I also like a good, genuinely informative list and his highest-earning films list adjusted for inflation I found very interesting (most of the very recent biggies vanish). And any book that has a graph of audience reactions during Jaws gets my vote.
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Format: Paperback
I've always liked Tom Shone's writing: it's pithy, insightful and often funny. He's also good with a clever argument, as long as you don't think it through too much. So it is here, indeed the general thrust of his thesis on how the blockbuster movie came to dominate Hollywood is brilliant at a glance; perforated when you give it any detailed consideration. There are also some howlers of mistakes - for example, he lists Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as being released in 1989 (I assume he means Last Crusade; TOD came out in 1984). And sometimes the writing strays the wrong side of the line of hyperbole: trying to compare the making of Titanic with what soldiers experienced in the trenches of WW1 is a bit much. But if you can put all of this aside, don't concentrate to much on the details, this is a fun history of moviemaking since the 70s.
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